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7-Eleven stores prepped to offer 24-hour, 7-day-a-week banking

The neighborhood 7-Eleven,  home to the Coca-Cola slurpee,   now plans to house one-stop banking centers for those who don't have bank accounts.

Southland Corp., owner of the store chain, has set up "financial service centers" in half a dozen 7-Eleven stores in Austin, Texas. Touted as souped-up ATMs, the centers will reach out to the "unbanked" with initial services of check cashing, money orders, money transmissions through Western Union, prepaid phone cards and basic cash withdrawals. Bill payments are a few months down the road.

"For those who don't have a banking relationship, the convenience of the store's hours may help to save them time and money," said Richard Updyke, Southland's manager of planning.

By the end of the April, 37 centers will be in place at stores across the Austin area. Southland has used Austin as a test site for its remodeled stores, fresh food and commissary programs in the past and believes the city has a solid, diverse population and a strong economy.

"It sort of mirrors the population of what the rest of the country looks like," said Margaret Chabris, Southland's public relations manager.

Security plan works to stop fraud
Attempts to cash a stolen check may be stopped cold due to stringent security measures.

Customers who plan to use the center, must first complete a "risk rate" to obtain a personal identification number, have their picture taken, place their signature on file and have their check verified by the company issuing it.

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The centers are also equipped with video conferencing software that connects the customers to service representatives.

"Typically, when you go to cash a check you're interacting with someone through a bulletproof glass. With this center, you don't need to interact with someone to make a transaction but if you want to, there is a feature in place where you can talk with a live person." Updyke said.

"The verification process will be ongoing and the center will automatically reject any check" that does not meet all the personal criteria previously entered, he added.

Dallas-based Southland is working with NCR Corp., a leading ATM supplier, Western Union Financial Services and Affiliated Computer Services, a Dallas processor and ATM network servicer.

Since last month, the centers have served Austin residents. A six-month test period will help to track traffic volume, equipment reliability and the type of customers who use the centers through exit interviews.

Other non-bank services planned
NCR and 7-Eleven have plans for additional applications—such as branch banking, vehicle registration, credit reports, smart cards, airline tickets, loans and insurance, issuance of postage stamps and possibly even online shopping.

"Probably the single most reason why we envisioned this as an opportunity was the efficiencies that can be gained through the amount of services that can be offered in the future," Updyke said.

Mark McCall, a NCR spokesman, agreed with the center's infinite possibilities.

"One of the nice features of the NCR product is we offer a solution that is up-gradeable. This is not the standard [ATM] box. We don't have a standard solution--everything is unique to each customer," McCall said.

With 90 percent of NCR's ATMs positioned in banks, the company has formed relationships with such retailers as K-Mart.

"The move has been to place more ATMs in retail outlets and the centers are a way to build on that existing relationship," McCall said.

7-Eleven already houses 4,600 cash dispensers and automatic teller machines. The 5,400-store retail network is poised to take the centers nationwide if the test period proves successful.

And while Southland's target is those who don't have banking accounts, Chabris said their pre-test research indicated that people with checking account will use the center for the convenience.

-- Posted: March 10, 1998


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